By Raïssa Robles
Speaking for the CBCP, the church policy-making body consisting of all Philippine bishops, Archbishop Villegas said:
“Before we have all the facts, however, the CBCP cannot morally join in the calls for his resignation, leaving this decision to his humble and prayerful discernment of his capacity to lead and the support he has not only from officials of government but from members of Philippine society.”
Please recall that three years ago,Villegas had demanded that Aquino step down over the latter’s support of the Reproductive Health Law. He said “contraception is corruption.” You can read my commentary about it here.
This time, however, Villegas takes on a more sober, more cautionary tone. You can read his full statement below:
There are calls for the resignation of the President in the wake of the outrage and grief over the sad fate of the “Fallen 44”, the gallant SAF uniformed men who lost their lives at Mamasapano. Some members of the Philippine Catholic hierarchy have echoed this call. For the present time, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has not arrived at a collective position. Whether or not the President should resign and yield the powers of his high office to a lawful successor is a judgment that he must make, after prayerful discernment, and in all humility and judiciousness.
We do not yet have all the facts, however. In fact, we have been given conflicting accounts of what really happened. But one thing should be clear: We must not lay the blame on those who already paid the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives for they were never in a position to command but, true to the culture of the police and of the military, stood ready to receive orders.
But we must get at the facts. That is why the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines fully supports and endorses the creation of a credible Truth Commission or a Fact-Finding Body. Any inquiry by a police body, such as a Board of Inquiry, no matter how veridical its findings, will be weighed down by lingering doubts about its preparedness to point to liability, no matter how high up the chain of command attribution must go! Subordinate officers, whether in the police or in the military, after all seldom point accusingly at superiors! An investigation by Congress is likewise compromised by the political allegiances of most of its members.
The CBCP therefore strongly suggests that the members of any such committee, though appointed by the President, must be endorsed by and acceptable to the public, recognized for their probity, acknowledged for their truthfulness and characterized by their boldness. The vocal advocates for the passage of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law are not credible nominees because they have made it exceedingly clear that they would not like the sad incident to derail the process of the enactment of the BBL. It is as important that the hearings of the body be open to all, and that its findings be available to all. Nothing is served by secrecy
The President of the Republic, the CBCP prays, should have learned from this regrettable tragedy that transparency and forthrightness are what are expected of him at all times. It will serve him well to listen to sound advice and counsel from truly wise, and not from those eager to curry favor! He has been roundly criticized for having absented himself at the arrival honors for the mortal remains of our heroes. He will, in the future, we hope, make better balanced choices and conduct himself as his high office demands. We pray that in all humility he would willingly accept just criticism rather than have his spokespersons concoct excuses at every turn.
Before we have all the facts, however, the CBCP cannot morally join in the calls for his resignation, leaving this decision to his humble and prayerful discernment of his capacity to lead and the support he has not only from officials of government but from members of Philippine society.
We entrust ourselves to God who has promised to heal our land if we turn back to him in prayer, penance and supplication.
February 4, 2015
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan